Rococo Revisited: Updating 18th-Century Style

Rococo Revisited: Updating 18th-Century Style

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Carolyn Purnell
Jun 22, 2015
(Image credit: Karen Knorr)

The rococo style for which the eighteenth century was famous is pretty out-there. It's wild, yet tends to have a fairly soft color palette. It's over-the-top yet delicate, exuberant yet magnificent. Even if a wild romp through the eighteenth-century isn't your thing, I think you still may want to give rococo a try. With just a few updates, it can be surprisingly beautiful and modern.

As Tara wrote in Apartment Therapy's Design Dictionary post on rococo, "The period is known for an increase in lower, more cushioned furniture that can be gathered into intimate groups, whimsical S- and C-shaped curves, ornate asymmetric flourishes, and a playful pastel palette." Frothy, gilded, and intricate, rococo conjures thoughts of the finest pastries and icing. Even if she never really uttered the famous words, it's not all that shocking to think that Marie-Antoinette might have had cake on the brain.

(Image credit: Carolyn Purnell)

In addition to the interior featured in the gorgeous Karen Knorr photograph featured above, these inspiration images will give you a sense of rococo in its original, eighteenth-century incarnation.

Clockwise from the far left:

More recently, rococo elements were imported into the "shabby chic" style, which had a similarly light palette, a love of florals, and a touch of ornate romance. But to borrow from rococo style, your home doesn't have to be shabby, nor does it have to be as over-the-top as its eighteenth-century predecessors. Here are some modern homes that borrow from the rococo playbook without being too period-faithful. They all manage to add their own twist on this centuries-old style.

(Image credit: Fine & Country)

This bathroom shows that you don't have to overdo it to channel the elegance, natural symbolism, and softness of the rococo style. Delicate tiles pair nicely and unexpectedly with clean lines modern finishes.

The color palette in Tess' 100-year-old Virginia house diverges from that of the eighteenth-century but all the curvy furniture, mirrors, and millwork channel elements of the style.

In this London family home, light and frothy colors give the dining room and kitchen a simultaneously elegant and playful feeling.

Kelle & Nick's eclectic Wisconsin home incorporates more modern graphic elements, but also borrows an eighteenth-century love of dense pattern and strong visual interest. Kelle's love of crystals, mirrors, ornate frames, and gilding also call rococo to mind.

The pale colors, exuberant roses, and natural collections in Cristina & Paolo's dreamy little house channel some elements of the rococo style, although their home on the whole is much more subdued and streamlined than the eighteenth-century incarnation.

In case you're as charmed by the style as I am, here are some items that channel this new rococo vibe. Whether you want to go all out or go more ro-low-low-key (sorry, I couldn't help myself!), these products will help you get the ornate flair for which rococo is so famous.

Top row:
1. Rococo Mirror, Anthropologie, $798
2. Madame de Pompadour and Casanova Candles, D.L. & Company, $85
3. Crowned Lion Canister, Imm Living via Domino, $90.75
4. Siscovers Rococo Duvet Set, Wayfair, $119.99-$139.99
5. Ladurée Sucré Cookbook, Amazon, $33.97

Bottom row:
1. Madame du Barry Tin Enamel Plate, Annabella044 on eBay, £4.74
2. Vintage Pink Acrylic Tray, ShopCityGirl on Etsy, $30
3. Sophie Conran Opening Doors Wallpaper, Wallpaper Direct, $137
4. 2 Blue Grace Boxes, One Kings Lane, $49
5. Golden Glass Shadowbox, West Elm, $99

For more rococo on Apartment Therapy, check out these posts:

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